Leadership challenges have increased: Abha Nair

Leadership challenges have increased: Abha Nair

In an exclusive interaction with Human Capital, Abha Nair, VP – People, Spykar, discusses the rewards and challenges of a blended workforce in the hybrid future of work.

Although the blending of workforces (full-time, part-time, contingent, bots, in-office, remote, etc.) is not a new trend, it has gained new momentum following the pandemic. Which roles in the fashion & apparels sector are best performed by full-time employees, and which are better suited to contingent talent? Do you foresee certain full-time jobs veering into non-traditional domains?


The Gig economy is helping us to build an agile culture which is needed in the ever-evolving and volatile Fashion Lifestyle Retail Industry. And given the manner in which the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the way we do business, it is more so now. Our business segment has always been dynamic due to the ever-changing trends and fashion along with evolution in processes. Newer Waves of Growth, Shifting Technology Landscape and ever-changing customer needs are generating various kinds of employment - Permanent and Flexible. There are various kinds of employment viz. onrolls, outsourced, contractual, part-time, project-roll and Consultancy. Talent is galore in all the segments and the TA design is now governed by the Business plan, which is to make the right skills available at the right time to provide solutions to the Business.


The predominant competencies desired in today’s VUCA environment are Digital/ Technology savviness, Data-driven research-oriented approach, Analytical skills, Social Media Communication Skills, Agility & high learnability quotient, Presentation Skills, Multitasking, Ownership & Accountability along with Digital Executive Presence.


Jobs that can be converted into digital frames and are part of indirect revenue function can be performed remotely e.g. Finance, IT, HR, Marketing, VM (digital) Purchase, MIS, Supply Chain and Planning & Merchandising. For all direct revenue functions like Production, Design, Warehousing and Distribution it can be a Hybrid model of office/home/ field since you have a mix of backend, factory, Warehouse and field jobs. The Sales function is dependent on how the Business plan is defined and defined. The skew is surely high on Digital (eCom & Omni) in which full-time and part-time jobs can be done remotely and low on Brick & Mortar Retail Sales since it is a full-time, on-field job.


Facility Management and Admin jobs, Field trainers, VM at Stores and Projects are not full-time roles at present. Most Retail companies have conceived a transformational agenda owing to the market changes. They are strengthening their Brick & Mortar space and expanding their eCommerce and omnichannel space. This is going to create new job opportunities in Logistics, Warehousing, Web, app design, system integration, customer service, big data Analysis and machine learning.


The pre-pandemic war for talent and the pandemictriggered acceleration of digital transformation across organisations is further bound to enhance the scarcity of talent. How do you believe the fashion and apparels sector will rise to this challenge of talent scarcity? Do you think the pandemic will transform the manner in which talent is acquired and onboarded?


Spykar, for instance, was already gearing up even prior to the pandemic in changing its Talent Acquisition (TA) strategy. However, owing to the pandemic, the digital transformation of TA has further accelerated. The digital world has created a reservoir of information across sectors and industries for the job seeker to manoeuvre. It is no longer an employer’s market, it is rather an employee’s market. It has the power to guide the candidates to pursue their passion and the kind of organisation they wish to work for. The emphasis is more on Career, Security, flexibility in the mode of working and work culture than earning a livelihood.


The impact is positive and favours both the job provider and the seeker. The world has gone digital and has provided us with the desired results. Talent Acquisition, in particular, enables us to connect to a wider audience since technology connects all the acquisition modes and helps in centralising the entire system. Thus, this works to save time and adds quality and value to the whole exercise. Chatbots and humanoids for initial screening in all languages are proving to be an enabler for remote/ distant recruitment. Skype, WhatsApp Video call, Google chats etc. are also hugely used for screening and saving hiring time and cost.


Also, Recruitment Marketing via the digital space is helping employers to woo candidates with their pitch on perks, security policies and employee experience management on what they have on offer to get onboard candidates during tough and trying times.


Many years ago, NASA engineers were apparently against employing crowdsourcing platforms for the simple reason that they stood to eliminate the culture of NASA— collaboration and brainstorming. What are the possible fallouts of a Blended Workforce on the culture of an organisation?


A Blended Workforce enhances the quality of decision-making as people from diverse backgrounds and cultures draw different viewpoints to the table, thereby, helping employees to engage in higher levels of innovation. The flip side, however, is that the absence of seamless integration between cultures will function to reverse the gains leading to non-performance and chaos with reduced motivation levels and higher cost of hiring. Also, there is more active knowledge than tacit knowledge and one will be forced to go back to the market to hire those skills again which is cost heavy.


In light of the pandemic, it has been witnessed that organisations are hiring CXO-level talent on an on-demand basis. What are the pros and cons of such an engagement in your industry?


Yes, it is always worth hiring certain CXO-level talent based on demand. Owing to the dynamic situation we are in, we have created dynamic business plans which demand high-end skills since they are the need of the hour. We may also find the need to initiate a specific project or salvage a difficult business-related problem or establish a new business framework. Once in auto mode, the high-end skills may be no longer needed once the operations commence. Since more and more young leaders are also looking at flexibility in work and handling multiple projects at the same time, it is well-suited to them. However, the not so young leaders who come with a mindset seeking permanence may have reservations since perks, compensation and security are similar in both modes of employment.


In developing a blended workforce, do you believe that the senior leadership is required to bring about a mindset shift within the company that full-time employees alone cannot ensure the completion of work/projects? If yes, how can leadership channelise such a mindset change within an organisation in your industry?


Senior Leadership challenges have increased many-fold in this changing environment as there are huge business sustenance challenges. And retaining the right Talent and hiring the relevant skills for innovation and enhanced efficiency is of utmost priority. Transparent communication on Business Performance, Future of Business and Sustenance plus expectations needs to be clearly established by the Management team/ Promoters of the Business. Helping them re-write the Talent & Skill requirement plan vis-à-vis Business plan, handholding them along with external coaches may reduce this barrier in the minds of the Manager. The Gig economy is going to be the way of the world going forward at all levels, and each of them will have to eventually transform their mind to this varied mode of working and performance evaluation.


Employee eXperience (EX) has been typically associated with full-time employees and often goes unaddressed for other workforce segments. With non-traditional talent becoming an increasingly important source of competitive advantage, how can organisations deliver optimal EX for them?


Since there is a change in the landscape of the workforce and the mindset of leadership and also the way we look at business performance regardless of permanent/flexi-worker, increasingly, the treatment or the Employee eXperience (EX) management is the same for all. Clarity with regards to the Role is of utmost importance and must be well-communicated. Both are equally important for the success of the business, and hence, the rational or emotional engagement does not differ for either segment.



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